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El Clásico has come round again quicker than we expected! Barça were not due to meet Real Madrid for the second time this season until March 2, but the Copa del Rey semi-final draw means the two famous rivals will also be meeting each twice in February. On Wednesday at 9.30pm CET, the Camp Nou hosts the first leg.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the twenty-first time that Barça and Real Madrid have met in the Spanish Cup in its different guises, dating all the way back to the Copa Coronación of 1902. The records are extremely well-matched. Although Barcelona have won more games over 90 minutes (15-12, with 7 draws), and also have more goals (66-65), the ‘series’ is tied in terms of overall victories in ties (10-10).
The last Copa del Rey meeting between the sides was the final in 2014. After Angel Di Maria and Marc Bartra had scored once for each side, Gareth Bale scored a spectacular winner five minutes from the end.
DID YOU KNOW?
Leo Messi recently notched up his 50th Copa del Rey goal, but the ‘only’ puts him sixth in the all-time list. He needs two more to catch up with Edmundo Suárez, who scored 52 goals for Valencia between 1939 and 1950. But Messi has not scored in six meetings against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, with Josep Samitier leading the way with six goals in the fixture.
Jordi Alba is the only current member of the FC Barcelona squad to have scored for Barça against Madrid in a cup match. Sadly this was a mere late consolation goal towards the end of the 2013 semi-final, which the all-whites won 4-2 on aggregate.
FC Barcelona are chasing history. In the very early years of Spanish football, Madrid won four cup titles in a row from 1905 to 1908, and Athletic Club repeated the trick from 1930 to 1933, but nobody has ever managed five consecutive triumphs. It could finally happen this time!
Real Madrid have been having a dismal league season, which included a period when they only picked up one point from five games, including a 5-1 battering at the Camp Nou with Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal scoring either side of a Luis Suárez hat-trick.
That was Julen Lopetegui’s final game in charge, and under Santiago Solari things have improved, with Madrid rising from 9th to 3rd in the league table, but still trail leaders Barça by eight points.
As well as winning the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, Madrid have also progressed into the last sixteen of the Champions League, where they will be meeting Ajax this month.
Their top scorer across all competitions this season is Karim Benzema with 18. Gareth Bale has 11 and Sergio Ramos has 10.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
(all scores aggregate over two legs)
FC Barcelona 5-1 Cultural Leonesa
FC Barcelona 4-2 Levante
FC Barcelona 6-3 Sevilla
Real Madrid 10-1 Melilla
Real Madrid 3-1 Leganés
Real Madrid 7-3 Girona
The winners will go on to meet either Real Betis or Valencia in a single game on May 25 at the Estadio Benito Villamarín in Seville, home of Real Betis.
Ernesto Valverde announced a list of 19 players for the fixture against Real Madrid.
They are: Ter Stegen, N. Semedo, Piqué, I. Rakitic, Sergio, Coutinho, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, Malcom, Lenglet, Murillo, Jordi Alba, Boateng, S. Roberto, Aleñá, Vidal, Vermaelen and Iñaki Peña.
Todibo and Samper are left out, whilst O. Dembélé, Rafinha, Cillessen and Umtiti are injured.
At his pre-match press conference, Ernesto Valverde remained cautious. "It's a special game. It's a semi-final and playing against Madrid is another incentive to reach the final," he said. "It's an open tie, we have great players but they do too, some of the best in the world."
Santiago Solari was upbeat about the nature of the fixture, saying "This is going to be a great game between two great rivals. It is like River-Boca, Inter-Milan, Penarol-Nacional, San-Lorenzo-Huracan and of course ours with Barcelona and Atletico. We love competing in these kind of games."
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